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Cooke agrees to three-year deal with Penguins

| Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"C" is for contract, and the Cookie Monster is staying in Pittsburgh.

Left wing Matt Cooke has reached a verbal agreement on a three-year contract with the Penguins. Term was agreed upon Monday night and the contract has been sent to NHL central registry to be made official.

Cooke, who earned $1.2 million each of the last two seasons, will count $1.8 million against the salary cap each of the years on his new contract.

At 31 he is the rare plus-30 players to re-sign with the Penguins on a multi-year deal since Shero was named to his post in May 2006.

Cooke was one of eight Penguins eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Finding a resolution with him and defenseman Sergei Gonchar, 36, were the top offseason priorities of Penguins general manager Ray Shero.

Cooke originally signed with the Penguins in July 2008. In two seasons he scored 28 goals and recorded 61 points, and he became a staple on "The Nightmare Line" with center Jordan Staal and right wing Tyler Kennedy.

Controversial for his penchant to push the envelope with his gritty and abrasive style, Cooke turned in arguably his most impactful season last year with 15 goals, 30 points and a plus-17 rating. He added four playoff goals — three more than he produced on the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup in 2009.

His role on the Penguins changed with the hiring of coach Dan Bylsma in February 2009. Bylsma inserted Cooke onto the penalty kill, and that added responsibility sparked a level of consistency to his performance.

He has scored 20 goals and recorded 46 points to go with a plus-22 rating in 104 regular-season games he played under Bylsma.

Cooke gained notoriety March 7 with his open-ice hit on Boston Bruins center Marc Savard. Not penalized because the hit was legal, Cooke and the hit were criticized because of the result. Savard was carried from the Mellon Arena ice on a stretcher. He did not play until the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs because ofb a concussion.

Cooke was not suspended for the hit, but league general managers drafted a new rule aimed at removing head shots from the game later in the month.

Cooke had stated his preference was to remain with the Penguins, with whom he had become a trusted dressing-room voice.

Unclear is how his re-singing will impact negotiations between Shero and Gonchar's agent, JP Barry. The Gonchar camp was awaiting word from Shero on a submitted proposal, and Barry said Monday he hoped to speak with Shero midweek or at the NHL draft this weekend in Los Angeles.

Gonchar is seeking a multi-year contract and has not publicly expressed an eagerness to take less than market value to remain with the Penguins, who expect to be tight against the salary cap entering next season.

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